6 Reasons Your Bonsai Might Be In Distress

When you’ve been putting time and effort into caring for your bonsai, it can be disheartening when you can tell something is not quite right. When a plant begins to show red flags that something is wrong (perhaps it is wilting or yellowing), there are a handful of common causes. In today’s blog, we are going to go over some of the common pitfalls of bonsai trees and offer some tips on how to fix the problem.  

Before you continue, keep in mind that the below is not designed to diagnose problems with bonsai. It is impossible to tell exactly what is wrong with your bonsai without consulting a bonsai expert. If you would be heartbroken to see something bad happen to your bonsai, please contact Clark M Long or your local bonsai expert for further advice before attempting the suggestions below.

Causes Of Bonsai Distress

1. Overwatering

Overwatering your bonsai can be detrimental to its health. Some soil is better than holding water than others, so even if the top layer of your soil looks dry, underneath may still be sopping wet. Additionally, if your soil has poor drainage, then that water has nowhere to go. This can lead to rotting roots and drooping, yellow leaves. If you suspect overwatering, try repotting your bonsai into a better-quality bonsai soil mix that provides healthy levels of drainage, aeration, and water retention.

2. Underwatering

As we’re sure you know, forgetting to water your plant can cause it to die pretty quickly. Signs of an under-watered tree include dry or crunchy leaves and brittle stems. Your bonsai will require different amounts of water depending on the time of year, so be sure to keep an eye on the dryness of the soil. You should water your bonsai when the top half inch of the soil is mostly dry. (P.S., if you’re looking for a good watering tool for bonsai, check out our Masakuni watering nozzle, which will give you a steady flow of water that won’t erode your soil.)

3. Lack Of Nutrients

If your plant seems to have stopped growing, isn’t producing the full foliage you expect, or doesn’t seem as hardy as it should be, it might not be getting the proper nutrients it needs. You can start by adding a bonsai fertilizer as a top dressing. If this doesn’t help the tree perk up, then you might be dealing with number four.

4. Rootbound Bonsai

A rootbound bonsai is one that has been growing in the same pot for too long. If you gently lift your bonsai out of the pot and see a thick matting of roots, then it is time to repot. Those roots eventually will choke each other out and will no longer deliver nutrients to the tree. This is a sure sign that it is time to repot your tree in a nice healthy soil. Start by removing the tree from the pot and raking the soil out of the roots. Then, prune back any extra long roots, dead roots, or roots that feel slimy. Finally, repot the bonsai in a fresh pot (you can use the same pot if the bonsai does not need a bigger one) and gently fill it with soil. Be sure to check out our blog about repotting bonsais to learn more!

5. Disease/Pests

Outdoor bonsai are especially prone to disease or demise by pests. Just like us, bonsai can fight off disease better when they are already healthy which is why using a good bonsai fertilizer and a high-quality bonsai soil mixture is essential. But sometimes that isn’t enough, and a pest infestation or infection takes over. Look for common signs of bonsai pests and diseases, such as holes in leaves, specks or spots on leaf surfaces, powdery mildew or cottony masses on leaves, yellowing leaves, or spotting a physical presence of bugs, mites, aphids, flies, or other creepy crawlies on or near your plant. If this happens, talk to horticulture expert or look online to try and identify what is happening. If you have a collection of bonsai, isolate the affected tree or trees from the rest of the group.

6. Wrong Climate

There are indoor and outdoor bonsai, and there are also tropical bonsai that don’t fare well in the same climate as an evergreen bonsai. Make sure you understand what species of tree you have and that you are providing it with the right climate and growing environment. A quick Google search of your species of tree should give you plenty of information about its ideal growing climate, whether it should be indoor or outdoor, and what to do if the weather drops below a certain temperature.

Need More Help With Your Bonsai? Get In Touch!

While we are known for providing Biogold Original fertilizers to bonsai enthusiasts, we do more than just that. Our founder, Clark Long, has over three decades of experience growing and caring for bonsai. He is available for private workshops, consulting, maintenance services, and more. Get in touch today for expert bonsai advice and help!